What You Need to Know About Phantom Pregnancy Kicks

You have every symptom of pregnancy: weight gain, morning sickness, swollen everything, and even tiny butterfly kicks in your belly. Surely, you are pregnant. Even your doctor thinks so.

Until the ultrasound shows a 16-week-old nothing. The baby you thought had been growing inside you the past few months isn’t there. As crazy as it sounds, this “phantom baby” does happen, and it can happen to you.   

What is a Phantom Pregnancy?

Phantom baby, also known as phantom pregnancy, is a true medical condition. As it’s known in the medical world, pseudocyesis involves psychological processes that trick a woman into believing she is pregnant.

The symptoms a woman with phantom pregnancy has can be so much like a real pregnancy that even her doctor might be fooled.

Some may use the terms “phantom pregnancy” and “delusional pregnancy” the same way. However, phantom pregnancy causes true pregnancy symptoms in a woman. Delusional pregnancy is, quite literally, all in a woman’s mind, with the woman suffering from other psychotic tendencies.

How Common are They?

Pseudocyesis is very rare. If you’ve suffered from it, your false pregnancy is about 1 in 22,000 real pregnancies. Women who are close to 33 years old are more susceptible to phantom pregnancy than other women.

Certain environmental and biological issues that affect some women can also make them more at-risk for a phantom pregnancy. For example, if you suffer from medical conditions, like ovarian cysts or ectopic pregnancy, you are more likely to experience the feeling of a phantom baby.

If you have a strong desire to become pregnant or have faced fertility issues, you are more likely to have the condition. Also, if you are from a broken family or a life of poverty, you may find yourself experiencing a phantom pregnancy.  

The really strange thing is that not just women suffer from phantom pregnancies. You may have heard women joking that their significant others suffer from “sympathy pregnancy”. But what a man feels when his wife is pregnant could actually be the result of phantom pregnancy.

What Causes a Phantom Pregnancy?

Women who get phantom pregnancies don’t have a set number of similar causes. They come from different backgrounds and have had different experiences in life. Although there are certain experiences and medical issues that tend to be more prominent in women with phantom pregnancy, there is not yet any scientific correlation between them.

However, there does seem to be a significant correlation between women who have suffered from pregnancy or fertility issues and their likelihood of developing a phantom pregnancy.

If you’ve had a miscarriage, trouble conceiving, or are close to the onset of menopause, your hormones could be signaling to your brain thoughts of pregnancy. The way your brain interprets those signals could be the difference between women who have phantom pregnancy and those who don’t.

What are the Symptoms of Phantom Baby?

A phantom pregnancy will mirror several real pregnancy systems, which is why it can be so difficult to distinguish the two until you speak to your doctor. Some of the phantom pregnancy symptoms you can have include:

  • An enlarged abdomen, much like a pregnant belly
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Irregular periods or absence of periods
  • Food cravings
  • Swelling of breasts
  • A feeling of baby kicking or moving
  • Phantom labor, where you may feel as though you’re having labor pains and will be delivering a baby soon

It’s possible to have these symptoms only for a short time, but you could have them for the whole length of a normal pregnancy or longer.  

How Can Phantom Pregnancy Be Diagnosed and Treated?

If you are unsure if you are experiencing a real or phantom pregnancy, you should check with your doctor immediately. He will perform many of the same tests on you that he would a pregnant woman, like a pelvic exam, ultrasound, urinalysis, and a fetal heartbeat test.

Your doctor may also need to rule out other possible medical conditions that have many of the same symptoms as a phantom pregnancy, like an ectopic pregnancy or cancer. If you are found not to have these conditions, it will likely be ruled a phantom pregnancy.

The most common route to take when you experience a phantom pregnancy is therapy. You should seek emotional support to help ease the pain of losing what you thought was a baby. Your therapist will also help you understand the underlying cause of your phantom pregnancy to prevent further occurrences.


A phantom pregnancy does not affect mentally unstable people, as many believe. Instead, it is a true medical condition that causes the body to mimic a pregnancy so closely that it’s difficult to distinguish real from false, even for doctors, until tests are performed.

If you have a phantom pregnancy, seek therapeutic support to help you deal with your loss and come to terms with any issues that caused the phantom pregnancy.








Kate Trout

Hi there, I'm Kate! I started Maternity Glow to be a place to learn all about practical parenting tips, baby care tricks, and healthy-living hacks for new and expecting moms.

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